Ophidian Dragon blogs his way through the entire Ultima series, from beginning to end.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Ultima Underworld II, Day 10 and 11

Another 5.5 hours, another game...

Finishing Underworld II took a lot longer than I had initially anticipated. Much of it isn't worth recounting--I wandered around trying to find the right place to use Altara's scepter in the various other worlds, and then I sought out some mud and basalisk oil (turned out I already had three bottles of the stuff on me--great scott!) in order to, of all things, suck some kind of air daemon inside my body. This took much longer than I thought, especially because a) I kept making wrong turns in the void and falling off ledges and b) No one bothered to tell me that you have to cast Iron Skin in order for the daemon to not slaughter you when you break its container! I puzzled about that for awhile before remembering my previous gaming experience.

Far more interesting are two things. First, I got the serpent statue! The requirements to get it are nutty, but I hit upon them when I got an unusual conversation option--one of the goblins offered to teach me tracking. Odd. So I let him, then talked to him again, and he handed the serpent over! I feel good that now the beginning of the next game will make some sense :-P It's not really a blackrock serpent, it is more silvery than that and it might be facing the wrong direction (though honestly, how can these serpents face any particular direction? Can't you just turn it over?). This quest is way too convoluted though, because it requires you do something wacky--go back and randomly talk to these goblins late in the game--and that you do something totally unrelated by asking him to train you in tracking.

The second interesting thing is, of course, the sequence of battles leading to a meeting with Praecor Loth, one of the more depressing parts of the game, as depressing as the entirety of Killorn Keep. Actually, everything in the game is depressing, all those conquered worlds...Anyway, what makes Praceor so depressing is that the three liche-companions who had served him for his life are so totally self absorbed that they force the king to live as a ghost because they refuse to let go of their earthly existence. I think you can convince one of them to let you by, but not the others; in either case, I killed them all. The "Smite Undead" spell was extremely useful in that regard! When you finally meet Praecor Loth, he is totally oblivious to the fact that he's been dead 700 years, and informing him that the Guardian conquered his planet and that he is buried in his tomb is not very fun; moreover, you can pretty easily see something similar happening in Britannia.

The rest of the game zips on by. The Killorn anti-Avatar, Mors Gotha, stupidly drops her spellbook, and you grab it up; then, she invades Castle Britannia. I killed her by turning her to stone and then whacking her over and over again. Then the game ended, and somehow Lord British suddenly has a throne!

I'll probably post more thoughts about the game later, but I will do something else first...In Ultima Underworld II, you visit eight different worlds. Whenever I bump into the number eight in an Ultima, I feel compelled to associate them with the eight virtues! So perhaps each of the world could plausibly be associated with one of them...

Killorn Keep: I don't think I can associate this dismal, forgotten keep with anything but compassion, as I invariably feel sorry for the dusty old Lord Thribis, the drunken Lobar, and that senile Ogri.

Pits of Carnage: I associate this place with valor, which is sort of a no brainer since you are slaughtering everything in sight, and gaining respect through your merciless killing, and in Ultima terms, valor is all about blood.

Ethereal Void: This is something of a dreamscape in which you encounter bizarre situations, and moreover it tends to be somewhat postmodern and self referential. Thus I can't help but associate this place with spirituality.

Goblin Tower: Here you are forced into a humble position, at least at the beginning of your visit, and you have to hide who you really are, so I would obviously think of this place as representing humility.

Talorous: This one's pretty tenuous, but I think that the death of the Bliy Skup Ductosnore suggests sacrifice, except usually "sacrifice" is you sacrificing yourself, not sacrificing someone else, lol, especially not against his will! But I think some of the other Talorians engaged in risky behavior in order to change their world, too.

The rest are tough. I'd tend to put the Ice Caves in the justice category, but not for a compelling reason except that you are restoring a balance of sorts by preventing the Guardian from drawing power from the world. The Tombs I tend to associate with honor, since the three companions of the king are obviously not behaving honorably, but also I associate it with honesty, as you must force the dead king to confront reality. That leaves the Acadamy, which I can't really see as representing anything.

On a final note--In each world you collect a blackrock gem, but they seem to be rather randomly located. Sometimes, they are in the location where you use Altara's staff to break the connection with the world; but sometimes (like in the Ice Caves), they are somewhere totally random. Hmm...

Also, on a final note, there is a VERY strange area in Praecor Loth's tomb, where you can go down one hallway if you go one direction, but that hallway does not exist if you go the other direction. It's on level three, near the maze with all the portuculli. I found it very confusing and I don't know how the game engine could support such a thing...


Natreg said...

I think the Academy should be associate with honesty... but mostly because in Ultima honesty is associated with magic... I don't know any other reason...

BTW some little fun things you may have missed.

One of the Liches talks about knowing Wolfgang, Mondain and Minax... That was an interesting reference.

Also if you surrender your weapon (or any weapon) to mors gotha, she talks about Pagan a bit.

Jeff said...

The blackrock gems you collect first appeared in the spots where you use Altara's staff, but some of them have been picked up and moved by the time you find them. I think a snow monkey picked up the one in the ice caves and carried it around.

In re Iron Skin, I am totally certain that someone warns you you need that effect up for the endgame. IIRC there's a merchant in Killorn Keep who's willing to sell you a potion of iron skin, if and only if you ask for it.

A while back I compiled this list. My point in doing so was to demonstrate that Ultima, unlike say Wizardry or Might and Magic or the Gold Box Games or any other series of CRPGs, was essentially about doing ritual magic, and that killing monsters was mostly a sideline or distraction.


Ultima I (1980):

--After initiation into a minium of two occult groups, travel backwards in time to the eve of Mondain's Great Working, and ruin evermore his Gem of Immortality.

Ultima II (1982):

--Claim the Quicksword, an artifact from outside time.
--Seek out and receive baptism from "Father Antos."
--Travel backwards in time to the antediluvian age and slay another evil wizard, Mondain's protege and child-bride Minax.

Ultima III (1983):

--Find the hidden way to the magic land.
--Undergo four rituals of scarification.
--Compel the Earth Serpent to do your bidding.
--Receive the benediction of the Lord of Time.
--Exorcise the magical construct EXODUS using the cards of Love, Sol, Moons, and Death.

Ultima IV (now we're talking) (1985):

--Claim the Eight Runes and Eight Stones of Virtue.
--Find the Lost Shrine of Spirituality in the Supernal Realm.
--Achieve the Eight-Part Initiation into the Way of the Avatar.
--Seize the Skull of Mondain and destroy it.
--Defeat an infinite army of demons.
--Open the way to the Abyss with the Bell of Courage, Book of Truth, and Candle of Love.
--Navigate the Abyss and find the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom.

Ultima V (1988):

--Visit the Codex eight times and learn the Inner Wisdom of the Way of the Avatar.
--Assume leadership of the Resistance, an occult society, while infiltrating the highest ranks of the Oppression, a diametrically opposed society.
--Find the three enduring shards of Mondain's Gem of Immortality and ritually destroy them.
--Receive fourth-degree ordination in the Way of the Avatar from your Holy Guardian Angel.
--Speak the holy words, and descend into the "Hole in the World."

Ultima VI (1990):

--Communicate with the extradimensional Wisps, and learn the secret word that destroys the world.
--Learn the magic language Gargish.
--Accept the Amulet of Submission.
--Enter rapport with the spirits of Mondain, Minax, and EXODUS.
--Achieve the least initiation into the traditions of the Gargoyles.
--Transverse the impassable mountains of rigor.
--Assume control of the extratemporal Vortex Cube.
--Marry the Way of the Avatar to the Gargish tradition by banishing the Codex back to the Abyss. (Alchemy!)

Ultima Underworld (1992):

--Undergo ritual initiation into the Knights of Carabus, another occult society.
--Recover the Tripartite Key of Truth, Love, and Courage.
--Open the Chamber of Virtue.
--Claim, then destroy, the Eight Talismans of Virtue, achieving the highest possible initiation of the Way of the Avatar.

Ultima VII (1992):

--Join the Fellowship, yet another occult society.
--Endure ritual initiation into the Fellowship.
--Defeat the ritual wards and wake Penumbra, the sleeping fortuneteller.
--Find the lost race of Emps.
--Communicate again with the Wisps.
--Ride with the Ferryman to the land of the Dead.
--Free the Dead from their enslavement to the dark lich.
--Volunteer to sacrifice yourself in the Well of Souls.
--Learn the Answers of Life and Death.
--Accquire patronage of the extratemporal Lord of Time.
--Defeat the Monster in the Tetrahedron.
--Reach the lost island Ambrosia and bypass its wards.
--Break the power of the Moons.
--Sit in the Seat of Virtue, and detonate the Black Gate.
--Visit the Isle of Fire and achieve the initiations of Truth, Love, and Courage.
--Claim the Blackrock Sword.
--Replicate the alchemical banishing of the Codex, with the core of EXODUS.

Ultima Underworld II (1993):

--Open the Labyrinth of Worlds.
--Pass the tests of the Scintillus Academy Final Exam, winning initiation into still another occult society (albeit one already destroyed).
--Rouse the spirit of Praecor Loth, King of the World.
--Crash the floating castle, Killorn Keep.
--Navigate the Supernal Realm.
--Bind an elemental prince into your soul.
--End the world of Talorus and bring about the next.
--See the future.

Ultima VII 2: Serpent Isle (1993):

--Take the Test of Knighthood and join the Knights of Monitor.
--Endure the ritual bloodletting of the Test.
--Meet and slay your totem animal.
--Accept ritual scarification (tattooing).
--Summon the Great Sea Turtle.
--Witness the rebirth of the Phoenix and claim her Egg.
--Create life.
--Loose the demon Arcadion upon the world.
--Achieve the second degree of initiation into the Gargish mysteries.
--With the Helm of Courage, Rose of Love, and Mirror of Truth, break an eons-old enchantment.
--Loot the Temple of Order and the Temple of Chaos.
--Achieve the highest level of initiation into the Ophidian mysteries.
--Plant the Tree of Balance.
--Resurrect the dead.
--Bring about the apocalypse.
--Sacrifice your closest friend.
--Open the Wall of Lights and escape this mortal coil into the Supernal Realm.
--Restore the Great Earth Serpent.
--Bind your dead friend into magical bondage.

Ultima VIII:

--Doesn't count.

Ultima IX:

--Doesn't count, either.

Natreg said...

Cool list Jeff (it sounds a bit weird sometimes, but maybe it's because english is not my first language)

I suppose, that you don't like U8 and u9 heh...

Anyway they have some cool rituals yo u could add to that list

baf said...

It's too bat U8 "doesn't count" because it really, really supports this thesis. When I read the line about how Ultima is "essentially about doing ritual magic, and that killing monsters was mostly a sideline or distraction", my first thought was that that's a perfect description of U8. The whole thing is organized around learning a new form of ritual at every corner of the map.

As to mapping virtues to worlds in UW2, I see the worlds as representing virtue twisted into vice. Here's how I'd analyze it:

Honesty: the Academy, ostensibly a place of learning, but built in such a way that it's useless and abandoned.
Compassion: Possibly the Tomb of Praecor Loth, if you think the guardians are acting out of compassion for their king.
Valor: the Pits of Carnage, obviously.
Justice: the goblin tower, because it's a prison.
Honor: Talorus. Everyone's so devoted to their duties there, even if the meaning has been forgotten. Arguably Praecor Loth and the Pits of Carnage could fit here too.
Spirituality: the Ethereal Void, obviously.
Humility: Killorn Keep, because it's a parody of Britannia, and parody it a tool to keep the mighty humble. (Also, concern with pride fits with the castle-in-the-air imagery, especially considering how it all ends if you attack the brains in the basement.)
That leaves the Ice Caves for Sacrifice, but I honestly don't remember what the story behind them was, so I don't know how appropriate this is. Arguably the Guardian's destruction of the world is a sacrifice of an inappropriate kind.